Dental night guards and dental mouth guards are molded from flexible plastic to the shape of the jaw and teeth. They are used to treat a range of medical conditions and to protect the teeth and jaw from trauma during physical activity and contact sports such as boxing, football or other activities where the mouth is a vulnerable target.
There are a number of oral medical conditions for which dental mouth guards are prescribed by a dentist:
• Temporomandibular disorders (TMD): TMD is a conditions affecting the temporomandibular joints that connect the mandible (lower jaw) to the skull and to the muscles of mastication (chewing).
• Dental aesthetics: A dental mouth guard may be used for tooth bleaching. Night guards are also occasionally used to protect thin porcelain bridges during sleep.
• Bruxism: This is a term for tooth-grinding. Dental night guards are often used to treat this common condition. Left untreated, bruxism can cause dental fractures or loss of teeth that ultimately requires extensive, and costly, dental treatment. Mouthguards are an inexpensive alternative.
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• Dental trauma: There are many sports during which the jaw can be exposed to deliberate or accidental trauma. Baseball, martial arts, rugby, hockey and boxing are obvious examples. In many cases, the use of a mouth guard is mandated by the rules of the sport. Athletes who wear a mouth guard that has not been fitted by a dentist can risk injury to the jaw due to a poor fit.
• Gum disease: Dental guards are sometimes used as trays to deliver medication such as corticosteroids.
• Morsicatio buccarum: refers to chronic cheek biting. A dental night guard may be used as a therapeutic device to prevent this from happening.